Cyber security and the protection of critical infrastructure

By Hannes Hanso, Estonian Minister of Defence

Cyber security has become a buzzword of today’s world, every day we hear about cyber-attacks against national institutions, business-sectors and our citizens. With a rapid development of the Internet, we are benefitting from the economic and social advantages that e-commerce and social media offer us. However, this is always coupled with ever higher vulnerability forcing all of us to focus more on the security side of the cyber world.

One can say that Estonia was lucky enough to go through nation-wide cyber-attacks in 2007. While at that moment everybody’s life was somewhat disturbed, these attacks had much more significant effect for the future as they showed our vulnerabilities as well as the way forward. In other words, that moment made us focus on what does it actually mean for a government to be responsible for the functionality of the e-lifestyle that Estonians had got so used to. Already then, Estonia was leading the world in terms of e-services that both the government and private sector offered to the citizens.

As one of the lessons learned, in 2008 we established our first cyber security strategy which set initial goals of cyber security, mainly through reducing our vulnerabilities through internal and international cooperation. The strategy set the structures for cooperation with the private sector, including addressing the question of information sharing making it mandatory for the critical infrastructure enterprises. The experience of 2007 attacks were painful enough so that public-private partnership was seen as a reasonable way to counter future cyber threats.

Also, in 2008 the NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence was established in Tallinn to enhance the cyber knowledge of the alliance. Currently, there’s 18 nations participating in the CCDCOE with their experts.

From the other perspective, we are also constantly developing and spreading our cyber-knowledge to the education. Ministry of Defence helps to organize an annual Cyber Olympics for the college students, we also offer cyber defence scholarships for the students. This autumn started the first high school in Põltsamaa focusing on cyber defence. The support of cyber education is the most efficient way to boost the knowledge and develop the domain in long run. We already see the next generation of cyber-savvy youngsters in the field.


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